Reasons to Get One, What to Expect, Associated Risks & More

What is an X-ray?

X-rays are the oldest and most common form of medical imaging. They are a form of electromagnetic radiation that is similar to light waves, except they’re more energetic and are invisible to the human eye. They’re produced when an electric current is passed through a vacuum tube, also known as an X-ray machine.

What to Expect When Receiving an X-ray?

When you get an X-ray, the part of your body that needs to be examined will be positioned between a concentrated beam of X-rays that will come into contact with your body tissues and create an image on a metal film. Air and nonmetallic objects like organs and soft tissue of the body can’t absorb X-rays, causing these materials to appear darker on film. Dense materials such as bone, tumors, and metal fragments absorb most of the radiation and appear white on film.

Thanks to the contrast that these images provide, X-ray machines act as a camera that allows doctors to see what is going on inside of your body without having to perform invasive surgery. For example, an X-ray may be used to find out if the source of your arm pain is a bone fracture, or to see if your flu is actually pneumonia. X-rays can be used for many other purposes, as well, like detecting artery blockages or cancer.

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